What Should I Know About Divorce in Maryland?
There are distinct grounds for divorce in Maryland, depending on the type of divorce that the client is seeking. Understanding the important differences will help clients make the best decisions for their situation. The experienced Towson divorce lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC work with individuals to help them determine the most appropriate legal course of action during this difficult time.
Because divorce can be either amicable or contentious, we work with clients to ensure that everything has been handled properly. Divorce involves one’s family and possessions. We ask that clients come to us with an idea of what they want. We work with clients at all stages of the divorce process, and we also assist with alimony, child support, and even cases of desertion.
What are Common Grounds for Divorce?
When a client seeks to permanently terminate the marriage, they will be seeking an absolute divorce. Those who are granted an absolute divorce may legally remarry. When an absolute divorce is granted, the courts will engage in the division of marital assets and property distribution, along with parenting plans for the children. Clients need to know how they can cite grounds for divorce and consider how they will explain their case or provide evidence. The grounds for obtaining an absolute divorce in Maryland include the following:
Adultery: A spouse filing for an absolute divorce on the grounds of adultery does not have to catch their spouse in the act of adultery to file on this basis. Courts will use circumstantial evidence, such as public displays of affection, joint travel plans, cell phone records, and written communication between the parties, as proof of an adulterous relationship. Adultery is a violation of the marriage vows, but we also understand that circumstantial evidence could paint a worrisome picture for someone who travels for work or has close friendships with members of the opposite sex. We will defend those who believe they have been falsely accused by their ex-spouse.
Constructive Desertion: Constructive desertion occurs when one spouse’s misconduct or mistreatment essentially forces the other spouse to leave the marital home. This sort of claim involves reasons why the spouse must leave the home, what their ex-spouse has done to cause the situation, and why the marriage cannot be reconciled.
Constructive desertion may not be a malicious act. Some spouses believe they must take jobs in other cities, work long hours, or connect with friends and family in a way that drives their partner away. Because of this, we ask that all clients explain the situation so that we can show why constructive desertion occurred, even if there are no other aggravating factors.
Constructive desertion requires a good deal of evidence, and that is why we consult with each client before taking the case. In some instances, it may be better to separate because the situation does not warrant a constructive desertion filing.
Cruelty of Treatment: Cruelty of treatment is any conduct that endangers the life, person, or health of the spouse that renders cohabitation unsafe. Cruel treatment of the minor child of the complaining spouse also constitutes grounds for divorce in Maryland.
Cruelty of treatment does not need to be physical. Many spouses believe they have been subjected to cruelty of treatment because they cannot leave the house, are not allowed to see their friends, or cannot go to work. Some spouses are kept on a tight schedule that a reasonable adult would find invasive, and some people have their phones and belongings searched regularly.
Cruelty of treatment also extends to drunken tirades or unpredictable behavior. Profane or humiliating language may be used in public or in private, which can make the marriage impossible to sustain. Some spouses do not realize they are being abused, but the power dynamic in their relationship is imbalanced. For example, the concept of silent contempt may be used where the abusive partner makes their spouse uncomfortable. This can result in a complete lack of communication or internal questioning. The situation is unhealthy and can be used as grounds for divorce.
Cruelty of treatment also includes any type of physical abuse, including hitting, punching, hair pulling, and mimed physical abuse. If the abusive party makes aggressive movements, violent gestures, or even punches walls, throws dishes, or slams doors repeatedly, these could be signs of impending violence that make the relationship untenable. Cruelty of treatment may only happen once or twice, but that is enough for a divorce proceeding.
Desertion: Desertion is a prolonged period of absence with no contact or support. If the period of desertion lasts longer than 12 months, that can be used as grounds for divorce. Desertion does not apply when an abused partner must escape the marital home, the abused party throws their spouse out of the home, or when two partners live completely separate lives in the same home.
At times, desertion may not be obvious. Some people have secret families in another town, or they claim that they need to work and live somewhere else. When communication and support stop, the affected spouse can work with us to determine their next steps. Desertion often occurs in conjunction with adultery, cruelty of treatment, or even insanity.
Although there is no need to bolster a divorce case after a desertion, that spouse could reappear. Having filed documentation showing other issues, such as abuse, insanity, or adultery, will show that the spouse has not returned in good faith and cannot request adjustments or modifications for the divorce filing.
Excessively Vicious Conduct: Excessively vicious conduct is a pattern of abuse that mirrors cruelty of treatment. When this pattern has been established, excessively vicious conduct should be cited in the divorce petition. This is vitally important for any divorce case because spouses need to explain how the abuse occurred. Hiring one of our Towson divorce lawyers will help frame the case appropriately. Do not attempt to go to court alone; a skilled attorney knows how to create an argument for or against any grounds for divorce.
Felony or Misdemeanor Conviction: If a spouse has been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor and was sentenced to serve at least three years in prison, individuals may file for divorce after the spouse has served at least 12 months of their sentence. The imprisoned spouse, however, has a right to process of service and legal documentation. That spouse can sign the divorce decree, or they can request legal representation to contest their divorce.
Insanity: The insanity grounds for divorce may be used when a spouse’s insanity leads to confinement in a mental hospital or similar institution for at least three years and the additional insanity requirements have been met. Two doctors should be able to testify that the mental condition from which the spouse suffers is incurable. This is an important condition that must be met when the divorce is filed.
Instead of trying to obtain this information alone, ask one of our divorce lawyers to help investigate the case. We know how to work with medical professionals, obtain expert testimony, and research any mental lapses that the offending spouse experienced in the past.
Separation: Spouses who live apart for 12 months without interruption may assert grounds of separation. There must also be a lack of sexual relations during this 12-month period and no hope for the marriage to be saved. Separation is a choice, and both parties likely agreed to it. Separation for 12 months for which both spouses agreed is different from desertion. We help spouses determine what the divorce petition should look like because there are several different ways to word the documentation and frame the case.
What is Limited Divorce?
Not all divorces in Maryland are permanent in nature. Clients may seek a limited divorce that does not terminate the marriage but provides for a judicially decreed legal separation. When a limited divorce is granted, marital assets will not be subjected to the property distribution process.
However, a court may determine that alimony is appropriate for one spouse during this legal separation. Many divorcing clients will initially file for limited divorce to determine alimony obligations, then amend their filings later to seek an absolute divorce. Other clients may file for limited divorce for religious reasons. When clients would like to file for a limited divorce, they will need to present grounds just as they would for an absolute divorce.
Notice that the grounds for limited divorce are different from those for absolute divorce. The following limited options should be chosen carefully. If the allegations are severe, clients should consider absolute divorce. The grounds for obtaining a limited divorce in Maryland include the following:
- Cruelty of Treatment: Cruel treatment of a spouse or children of a spouse.
- Desertion: A spouse may file for a limited divorce on the grounds of desertion as soon as the desertion occurs. Unlike filing for an absolute divorce, the deserted spouse does not have to wait a specific period before filing the divorce petition.
- Excessively Vicious Conduct: Vicious conduct is directed toward either the complaining spouse or the complaining spouse’s minor children.
- Voluntary Separation: Spouses who live separately without cohabitation may file for a limited divorce on the grounds of voluntary separation when there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
How Can Clients Provide Evidence?
When a divorce filing takes place, evidence must be collected. Evidence can come from several different sources, and both spouses should be aware of certain tips that might help corroborate their claims, including the following:
- Check emails and texts
- Check phone records
- Check social media posts
- Check online and physical calendars
- Look for pictures
Evidence that is gathered to show adultery or desertion can be found rather easily, but evidence of abuse or vicious behavior may not be as obvious. Spouses are encouraged to document any instances of abuse that they have suffered. If spouses believe they cannot escape the marital home or may be in eminent danger, we will help file for a restraining or protective order.
When speaking with one of our divorce attorneys, try to relate any situation that made the divorce necessary. Any statements given can be added to a divorce petition. Police or hospital records may also be used if medical treatment or law enforcement intervention was necessary in the past. In some instances, there is little evidence other than the way the plaintiff feels. Because Maryland allows circumstantial evidence, those feelings are valid in a court filing.
What Else Should be Considered During a Divorce?
Prenuptial Agreements: A prenuptial agreement is signed by both parties before the marriage license is signed by the officiant. This agreement often stipulates how assets will be divided in the event of a divorce. These agreements will supersede local statutes, and they should be left with an attorney who will help execute these documents during a divorce proceeding.
Our divorce attorneys will help clients craft a prenuptial agreement, and that agreement will be kept private until a divorce occurs. Some spouses may believe that they were coerced into signing a prenuptial agreement, and we will review the circumstances surrounding its creation and signing.
We also ask that anyone who enters our offices for a consultation disclose the existence of a prenuptial agreement before we build a case. We must know if that prenuptial agreement is valid, if there is a copy that can be used while filing the divorce petition, and if it was signed legally.
Postnuptial Agreements: A postnuptial agreement is signed after a couple has already been married. This type of agreement may be used to protect one spouse who had a financial windfall in the event of a divorce. For example, a spouse may inherit a large amount of money from a relative, and they may want to protect their savings in the event of a divorce.
Someone who is thinking of creating one of these documents should not try to do it on their own. Additionally, no one should sign a hastily written document that was created by their spouse. We can help clients build a document that makes the most sense for both parties. This is not a tense negotiation, but a conversation about how both parties would like to protect themselves. We ask that the document be disclosed when we are retained for a divorce case. We need to know what agreements have been made, if they are lawful, and if they are written properly.
Parenting Plans: Parenting plans should be created for all parents if they plan to separate or divorce. Parenting plans can be used to determine visitation, and these plans will explain how the parents can share custody if they are living in the same household.
We understand how to create these documents and help parents make the best decisions for everyone. Older children may have a say in where they would like to live or the level of visitation that is needed. We also offer special option, such as nesting, where the child lives in the same house and the parents rotate living there. If the two parents can reach an agreement on their own, they can submit that agreement to the court. The court will likely sign off on that agreement, and both parties can move on with their lives once the divorce is finalized.
Mediation: We provide mediation when two parties need to reach an agreement on the divorce. Mediation is a good first step when spouses do not know how they can come to an arrangement for the divorce. This is especially important when a divorce becomes contentious. Clients may ask for mediation because they know their ex-spouse will make the divorce process extremely difficult. A high asset divorce can become even more contentious when there is money at stake. These divorces might include the following:
- Business transfers
- Offshore accounts
- Business succession plans for children and grandchildren
- Stock portfolios
- Expensive cars
- Multiple homes
- Priceless family valuables
Mediating the divorce can help both parties come to an agreement about who will move, who will keep the house, and how child custody will work. We will remain in mediation for as long as it takes to help both parties come to an amicable agreement.
Property Division: Property division is especially important for couples who have valuables to divide. Clients who are in the process of an amicable divorce can create a property division agreement and submit it to the court. Clients who are in the midst of a difficult divorce battle may need assistance from adivorce lawyer who can fight for one’s money, investments, collectibles, and valuables.
Alimony and Child Support: Divorcing clients in Maryland can agree to several forms of alimony and/or child support during a case. Alimony in Maryland can be awarded in the following ways:
Pendente Lite Alimony: This type of alimony is typically a bridge to traditional alimony payments. The higher-earning spouse agrees to pay alimony as the two spouses separate. This is typically done when the spouse with the lower earning potential cannot afford to be divorced. That spouse then uses the alimony to prepare for the divorce, move, and get their affairs in order. This is not a permanent type of alimony. The two sides will agree on an end date when the divorce is finalized.
Rehabilitative Alimony: Rehabilitative alimony is offered to the lower-earning spouse since they have contributed more to the marriage. This spouse may have quit jobs, moved multiple times to advance their spouse’s career, worked while their spouse was in school, or raised the children almost on their own. This type of alimony typically has a stopping date that is determined by the court because alimony is partly calculated on how long the marriage lasted. A longer marriage will net more alimony for the spouse with lower earnings.
Indefinite Alimony: Indefinite alimony is paid to the lower earning spouse with no definite end date. This is also called permanent alimony in some states because it does not stop until death closes the agreement for one or both parties. Although indefinite alimony is rare, we can petition for indefinite alimony when the lower earning spouse is disabled, ill, or otherwise cannot maintain gainful employment. This type of alimony may also be necessary because the lower earning spouse must care for a disabled adult child or family member.
Divorce on the Grounds of Irreconcilable Differences
In the state of Maryland, partners must use the trial separation period to remain separate for 12 months. After that period has lapsed, the client can file for an absolute divorce. Even if the client did not go to court when they separated, they can show that they have been separated from the other spouse, have not reconciled, and the divorce should go through as normal. Again, this includes no sexual relations and very limited contact between the two parties.
Can Clients Make Modifications to a Divorce Decree?
Modifications to a divorce decree can be requested at any time, but we ask that those requests be brought to our attention before any filings are made. We work with clients to adjust child support, custody and alimony agreements, and we can make changes when one or both spouses remarry. We also help spouses make changes to their divorce decree if they must move or a child wants to change homes. These things need to be on the record so that the court can monitor them. This protects both parties who are attempting to abide by the divorce decree.
If one spouse believes that the divorce decree has been ineffective, we may petition the court to change the decree. We are also willing to work with divorcing spouses who believe that their ex-spouse should be ordered to pay bulk child support that is delinquent, bulk alimony, or other monies that are required.
Ideally, both parties will agree to and abide by all the terms of a divorce decree. That may not be possible in all cases, and that is why we can help with modifications when needed.
We handle same-sex divorce proceedings just as we would any other case. Clients can come to us for help when they would like to divorce their same-sex partners. These cases can be difficult because the traditional dynamics of a marriage are not necessarily present. Anyone who believes they need to file for divorce or defend themselves against a divorce filing should reach out to us for assistance.
Why Do I Need an Experienced Attorney?
Divorcing spouses need an experienced attorney who understands the court system and all the forms of divorce that can be used to settle the arrangement. Clients who go to court alone are often outmatched by their ex-spouse’s attorney. Allow us to investigate the case and determine the best course of action for the situation. Clients often find themselves in many different situations that need to be resolved as soon as possible.
Even when divorcing spouses split amicably, it is helpful to work with us so that we can draft all the documentation needed. The court has specific requirements, and we can ensure that the divorce petition is filed correctly, all the paperwork is in order, and that the final hearing will be simple for both parties. We also get involved when spouses need to go back to court and deal with alimony payments, child custody issues, and a number of other situations that might upset the divorce decree. We aim to help each client save time, get their affairs in order, and move on.
Towson Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Those Seeking Divorce in Maryland
Whether you chose to file for an absolute or limited divorce in Maryland, the dedicated Towson divorce lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC can assist you with the complexities of Maryland divorce law. We handle all aspects of your divorce matter, including filing your divorce petition, pursuing child support or alimony, and negotiating child custody arrangements, as well as post-divorce modifications. Call us today at 443-589-0150 or contact us online for a free consultation.
Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we work with clients in Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.